North Africa

Kristy Barbacane

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
North Africa

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  • Music
  • Applied Music
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Music Theory and Analysis
  • Musicology and Music History
  • Music Education and Pedagogy


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Also known as the Maghrib, the geographical region of North Africa traditionally describes the present-day nations of Morocco (including the region of western Sahara), Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The term Maghrib originates from the Arabic gharb (“west”) and maghrib (“sunset”) in opposition to the Arabic sharq or mashriq (“east” or “sunrise”), typically called the Levant or land east of Libya. Even though Egypt is geographically part of the African continent, it is most often sociopolitically included in the Middle East (see the Oxford Bibliographies article on West Asia). Throughout history, North Africa has been a region of diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religions. These affiliations have often crossed national and geographic boundaries. The recorded history of the region stretches back to the Phoenician sea traders, Carthaginians, and Greeks crisscrossing the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium bce. The region fell under Roman control from c. 200 bce to 300 ce after which it came under Visigoth and Byzantine governance from c. 300 ce to 650 ce. In the 7th century, Arab-Islamic conquests took over the region and various regimes maintained control until the 16th century when the Ottoman Turks took over Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia until the 19th century. Morocco continued to be ruled by successive Arab-Berber Muslim dynasties until the 19th century. Starting in the 11th century, and especially after the fall of Grenada in 1492, Muslims who had controlled parts of the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th century, a region known as al-Andalus, were forced to leave. Most migrated to North Africa, bringing with them their so-called Andalusi music traditions. During the 19th and 20th centuries, regions of North Africa became French colonies (Algeria) or protectorates (Tunisia and Morocco) or under Italian colonial rule (Libya). Throughout the 20th century, national independence movements established the present-day nation-states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. There is a growing field of music scholarship dedicated to the study of North African music history, performance practice, traditional, and popular music genres and organology. Most historical accounts of North African music focus on the 20th century onward. Earlier histories of music remain understudied. However, authors have written on music in pre-Islamic and early Islamic history throughout North Africa. Studies of North African music and performance are often organized by genre, nationality, or more localized regions and/or ethnolinguistic groups. More recently, scholars have focused on studies of North African diaspora communities in Europe, Israel, and Canada. Scholars also discuss the role of media and technology, theories of globalization, issues of gender and cross-cultural music projects that integrate aspects of North African traditions.

Article.  11685 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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